Jennifer Lynch’s Chained is an impressively directed psychological thriller concerning the relationship between a murderer and rapist known as Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his abductee Rabbit (Eamon Farren). Although the plot follows the conventions of the genre, the overall execution is excellent with thoughtfully arranged mise-en-scène and great performances from both leads.
The opening sequence, which establishes the expected happy family, is visually powerful with vibrant colours and stunning cinematography of open spaces which accompany the care-free ambience of the young Rabbit (Evan Bird) in his unknowingly doomed freedom. This freedom is quickly obliterated with the abduction that occurs as Rabbit and his mother (Julia Ormond) return from a horror film at the cinema. With this detail, Lynch has consciously added to the tension of the film as the audience is reminded that they themselves will be returning from a horror film at the cinema shortly.
The vibrant wide shots used at the start provide a foil for the introduction of the main set of the film: Bob’s shabby, isolated farmhouse in which the majority of the film takes place. The dull browns and limited lighting of this set are representative of the gloomy and tight quarters of Bob’s farmhouse that comprise Rabbit’s imprisonment. Filming in such a small location means there are the limited angles available; this in turn means that each shot becomes more recognisable and familiar (albeit still very aesthetically pleasing), and therefore enhancing the idea of Rabbit’s familiarity with his cage.
The two central actors play a big part in the success of the film. D’Onofrio as the brutal, isolated, and sometimes comical criminal psychopath gives a performance that deserves much praise. First impressions of D’Onofrio are shocking; one-punch knock-outs and sudden movements convey the physical brutality of his attacks. On further acquaintance, especially when Bob begins to interact with Rabbit, his casual nature and outlook, which seems oddly incongruous and actually renders him slightly parodic. With a minimalist script and sparse dialogue, each line is delivered bluntly and with purpose. The only communication is that of instruction or command until a flash-forward to Rabbit’s adulthood when Bob, seemingly, becomes attached to Rabbit. Here, their relationship goes from prisoner/warden to teacher/student as Bob begins to allow Rabbit some recreational freedoms. This relationship develops and the characters almost seem fond of one another, with Bob trying to instruct Rabbit in his devious ways.
Farren’s acting is the main catalyst for the noticeable progression at this stage in their relationship as he moves from fearful to cautious to familiar with a subtlety that is not apparent to the casual viewer. Approaching the end of the film, the pair’s relationship is close to that of father and son, a resemblance explicitly touched on in the script. The audience begins to empathise, albeit very slightly, with Bob as we discover he is not entirely to blame for his darker habits. The ending of the film is ambiguous and creepy as is to be expected from a psychological thriller but the scenes prior to the end are surprising and rewarding, giving a different meaning to what had previously seemed a coincidental kidnapping.
Chained is an exceptionally well-created thriller which keeps the viewer hooked the entire hour and a half, thanks in large part to the performances of Farren and D’Onofrio. With slow, beautiful shots of both spacious, vibrant exterior world and the confined, dull interior of the farmhouse adding aesthetic depth to the genre, Jennifer Lynch has created a high-quality psychological thriller about Stockholm Syndrome perfect for the Hallowe’en season.